Chris Sneider, senior civil engineer with the public works department and overseer of the pavement management program, said his team conducts an annual survey in the fall to identify the streets most in need of preservation — the ones that are still in good condition but need some help in order to stay that way.
Once those have been identified, he said, he looks at the money left over and decides which roads most need resurfacing work.
“We gather all that data, and then that data allows us to look at the entire city network of streets,” Sneider said.
He prioritizes his annual roadwork season that way — preservation first, resurfacing second — because preservation is much more cost effective than repaving. Preserving a street, he said, costs around $2 per square yard. To tear up a road and rehabilitate it entirely, the bill jumps to $20 or even $35 per square yard, depending on the work the road might need.
A slurry in time saves nine, so to speak.
The rough plan
Work will start in June and ramp up in earnest in July and August.
“Right now, the schedules are very rough,” Sneider said. “That’ll depend on when we have the contractors completely on board.”
Roadwork is a weather-dependent process that requires totally dry days. Because of that, precise schedules are hard to hold to during unpredictable Pacific Northwest summers.
Still, people who live or work near the areas to see roadwork will get some lead time. Callahan said her department sends notice via door hangers one to two weeks before work is scheduled to start, and another notice one to two days ahead of time. She also works to notify people of imminent projects on Facebook and Twitter.
The earliest major project will likely be an asphalt paving project on 162nd and 164th avenues in east Vancouver, stretching from Northeast 18th Street south to Mill Plain Boulevard. That’s due to start in June, Callahan said. Work will likely take place overnight, with one lane remaining open in either direction.
This year, the bulk of the preservation projects are focused in central Vancouver between Interstates 5 and 205, Callahan said. In 2018, the city focused on west Vancouver and the downtown area.
“Next year, we’ll primarily be doing preservation work east of (I-205),” she said.
Finally getting ahead
Prior to 2015, Vancouver budgeted around $6 million for roadwork over the summer. It wasn’t enough, according to Sneider.
“We didn’t have the funding,” Sneider said. “The streets were declining all over the city.”
But in late 2015, the city council decided to boost the Pavement Management Program with additional resources from the Street Funding Strategy. The inflow of cash — about $5 million more a year — lets the public works department plan ahead with more preservation treatments, instead of reacting to crumbling roads too far gone for cheaper solutions.
This year, Vancouver has some help in the form of grants from the National Highway System Asset Management Program. The program contributed $1.66 million in matching funds for two of the repaving projects, on top of the $11 million from the city budget.
The eventual goal is to get all of the roads up to a point where the city only needs to pay for preservation treatments, instead of the yearly juggling act of preservation and repaving.
“Each year, the entire street network is gradually getting better and better and better,” Sneider said.